The Power of Words

   by Rayola Kelley

    Recently, I had someone make a statement that always makes me stop and shake my head. We were discussing a potential problem that could wreak havoc on a person, if not properly confronted. The person I was talking to stated that he would not claim such a reality by even stating the possibility of its validity.

    Consider what this person was saying. This individual was declaring that by his very words, he could actually control reality or change what is true about a situation. Is this true or is it unrealistic?

    The Bible says a lot about our tongue or words. Can words change present reality as to what is happening or do they change environment? For example, if someone is sick, will admitting it or lying about it change the fact that the individual is sick? Can our words make something true or do they simply create a false reality that will make the one operating in it seem like a fool, hypocrite or liar?

     Where do we get the idea that our words hold such power? Granted, there is One whose words hold incredible power. Clearly, God spoke creation into being (Genesis 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20; 24). Hebrews 1:3 makes this statement about Jesus Christ: “Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the majesty on high.” (Emphasis added.)

     Obviously, there is only One whose very words can change our reality or a situation, and that is God Himself. However, does mere man hold such power in his words? For example, can he speak something into being? Can his words change the circumstances around him? As we consider the Scriptures, we will see that our words have no ability to adjust what is true, but they do have the ability to impact lives and influence environments. Consider some of the ways that words impact or affect our realities.

     Edification: The Bible talks about words or conversations that edify or build up. Such words are in relationship to the spirit of a person (1 Corinthians 14:3; Ephesians 4:29). Edification does not mean speaking words that flatter, con or delude. It means speaking truth in the spirit of love and meekness. Truth can encourage, but it also cuts against the grain of what is comfortable and unrealistic (Hebrews 4:12). Such edification is not always popular, but necessary to set the person free to receive what is true and realistic (John 8:31-36). Clearly, words have the ability to impact a person’s life in a constructive way. Proverbs tells us that a word fitly spoken in due season is good and valuable (15:23; 25:11).

      As we consider this, we realize that words determine the environment in which people will respond. Proverbs 18:14 talks about a wounded spirit. A wounded spirit often occurs because of harsh, cruel words. It is hard to bear such a spirit. Many times people hide behind walls to protect themselves from such words.

     Idle words: Other types of words that set up an environment are idle words. Matthew 12:36-37 makes this statement: “But I say unto you that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account of it in the Day of Judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.” Idle words mean useless, barren and vain words that have no substance. These words do not change what is true, but they are spoken without value, merit or substance behind them. They are also spoken without regard, meaning or real intention. Ultimately, they set up a false reality of hope for others that dare believe them.

     Jesus made it clear that believers must say what they mean and mean what they say. In Matthew 5:37 we read His words: “But let your communication be, yea, yea; Nay; nay; for whatever is more than these cometh of evil.”

     People are free with words that speak of commitment and good intentions, but fail to produce. People who are not true to their words display irresponsibility and will lack authority. Others will view them as untrustworthy and hypocritical. Jesus stated that such words will produce evil and will result in judgment. In fact, words that have no substance behind them defraud others by setting up a false hope or environment. The Apostle Paul made this statement in 1 Thessalonians 4:6-7 about such fraud: “That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified. For God hath not called us to uncleanness, but unto holiness.” Sadly, many people prefer such words to maintain a fantasy, but Christians must avoid partaking of such evil. They are actually committing fraud, which is a form or perversion or uncleanness. In other words, they have perverted the truth.

     Slander: There are words that change reality, but in wicked ways. The words I speak of involve slander. Proverbs 10:18 states: “He that hideth hatred has lying lips, and he that uttereth slander is a fool.”  Slander is associated with lying lips that reveal hatred. Slander sets out to destroy the source of its hatred by setting up a destructive reality.

    Slander may contain some element of truth, but it lacks the right spirit. Its intent is destruction, not restoration or reconciliation. The spirit behind slander is that of malice. Peter makes this statement: “Wherefore, laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings” (1 Peter 2:1). In this case malice is associated with lies, hypocrisies, envies, and evil speakings. Slander is the byproduct of lies, hypocrisies and envies. We are clearly told to lay all such things aside to ensure purity in our own lives.

     As you consider slander, you realize that it was what was used to justify Jesus’ crucifixion. The religious leaders set out to destroy Jesus. The only way they could do that was to slander His character by misrepresenting His teachings. They planned all of this in darkness. Psalm 101:5 says: “Whoso privily slandereth his neighbor, him will I cut off, him that hath an high look and a proud heart will not I suffer.”   God will not tolerate slander, yet many resort to destroying the reputation and lives of those who dare offend them.

    We even see this in the Church that Jesus died for. Hatred has set out to destroy the servants and sheep of God due to personal offenses. However, whether there is true guilt or not, no believer is justified in destroying the reputation of another person. It is God’s responsibility to execute vengeance on those who oppose His character, truth and kingdom (Hebrews 10:30-31). After all, He is not influenced by wounded pride, insulted feelings, and petty, religious judgments.

     It is true there is power in words, but such power cannot change reality. Words that are true will simply confirm truth. Such words may bring encouragement, instruction or challenge, but they will not change actual reality.

    People who imply they can change reality by their words do not live in reality. In fact, they are advocating delusion. Such people are ignoring reality, rather than confronting it. The failure to confront reality means that problems remain intact, and will continue to grow. Eventually, these problems will escalate into tidal waves.

    When you question people concerning lying about or ignoring reality, they claim it is a matter of faith. Their perception is that to accept reality that is not pleasant is a lack of faith. After all, they reason that God does not want us to experience such reality. Presentation of faith in this light is not only promoting a pseudo-faith, but it is idolatrous. People are putting their faith in words or in their idea or concept of faith.

     Faith is not meant to change reality, rather it is meant to put confidence in God through unpleasant times. Jesus said we would have much tribulation in this world, but not to fear for He has overcome the world (John 16:33). Acts 14:22 states: “Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.”

    Truth or reality will not change because people do not like how it affects them. Truth remains in place. Therefore, it must be honestly faced before a person can come to terms with God’s perspective. It is when God’s people gain God’s perspective of truth about a matter that individuals will be set free to honestly face present reality with solutions and hope.

      It is time for believers to understand the power of their words. It is also important that they take responsibility for their words. Words reveal the heart condition. Once again, words may determine and change the environment of a person or relationship, and they may set up a destructive reality, but they will never change what is true.

     There is only One who holds the power to change reality with His words. For man to advocate that he is able to change reality in any way is to exalt himself in the place of deity. It is blatant idolatry.

      This brings us down to the written Word of God. His Word is sure and trustworthy. It is truth and its spirit or intent will not change, adjust and be changed, regardless of circumstances. It is capable of impacting, changing and transforming the inward disposition or environment of a person. It has the power to change reality by changing the person’s perception of God and life. In most cases, this is the secret of all changes when it comes to a person’s reality. After all, attitudes about God and life determine how people view reality and approach the different challenges of life.

     What do your words say about your character and life before God? Are your words sure like God’s Word, or untrustworthy like Satan’s? Do your words line up to the intent and instructions of God’s Word, or do they prove to be useless and foolish? Let each of us not only prove to be true to our word, but true to God’s Word. We need to remember that our words will uphold or undermine our faith in Jesus Christ and our testimony of Him.